Molecular characterization of squamous cell carcinoma of the anal canal (SCCA)


B.A. Weinberg, H.J. Lenz, D. Arguello, W.S. El-Deiry, J. Xiu, Z. Gatalica, Z. Liu, S. Cheng, J.J. Hwang, P.A. Philip, A.F. Shields, J. Marshall, M.E. Salem


Nivolumab has shown promising results in SCCA patients. The majority of SCCA cases have been linked to prior human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. However, HPV negative tumors are frequently TP53 mutated and often resistant to therapy. Molecular characteristics of SCCA are largely undefined. Here we explored the underlying biology of SCCA and the differences between TP53-wild type (TP53-WT) and TP53-mutated (TP53-MT) tumors.


SCCA specimens underwent multiplatform testing with protein expression (IHC), gene amplification (ISH), and sequencing (NGS). Tumor mutational burden (TMB) was calculated using only somatic nonsynonymous missense mutations. Chi-square tests were used for comparative analyses.


In total, 253 tumors were studied. The most frequently mutated genes included PIK3CA (24%), BRCA2 (14%), FBXW7 (12.4%), TP53 (9.7%), and PTEN (8.9%). In a subset of 23 tumors subjected to Illumina NextSeq (592 gene) testing, the most common mutations were NOTCH2 (30%), NOTCH1 (27.3%), POLE (21.7%), TSC2 (17.4%), PTEN (14.3%), BRAF (13.6%), BRCA2 (13.0%), PIK3CA (13.0%), and FBXW7 (9.5%). Tumors frequently expressed MRP1 (97.6%), EGFR (92.7%), TOP2A (88.5%), TOPO1 (69.5%), MGMT (67.8%), and RRM1 (59.9%). Expression of PD-1 was seen in 55.8% (24/43) of tumors, and PD-L1 in 15.4% (9/34). HER2 was amplified in 2% (3/147) of samples, which has not been previously described in SCCA. When compared with TP53-WT (n = 93) tumors, TP53-MT (n = 10) had higher rates of BRAF (22% vs. 1%, p < 0.001) and RB1 mutations (44% vs. 0%, p < 0.001), whereas TP53-WT had higher expression of TOPO1 (76% vs. 40%, p = 0.01) and TUBB3 (19% vs. 50%, p = 0.02). There were no differences between the two groups in the frequency of PD-1 or PD-L1 expression. Mean TMB was 8.6 mutations/megabase and, using a TMB cutoff > 17 mutations/megabase to define high vs. low TMB, 6.7% of tumors were TMB-High. High TMB did not correlate with PD-1 (p = 0.50) or PD-L1 status (p = 0.52).


Molecular profiling differences between TP53-MT and TP53- WT SCCA indicate different carcinogenic pathways and biology, which may influence response to therapy. Low frequency mutations in several druggable genes may provide therapeutic opportunities for patients with SCCA.

Download Publication